Thursday, 12 June 2008

Blasphemer jailed

This poor bastard has been jailed in Finland for two years and four months on nine counts of "gross defamation, inciting ethnic hatred and inciting religious hatred" -- in other words, "insensitivity towards Islam." [Hat tip Duncan Bayne] The poor bastard's name is Seppo Lehto, and while his work is variously described as "odious," "repellent," and "racist filth," that on its own should not be cause for imprisonment.  Notes blogger Baron Bodissey,

As was pointed out by several commenters at the time, Mr. Lehto is not the most appealing poster child for freedom of expression.

Unfortunately, one can’t choose only the most noble and upstanding people as defendants in civil liberties cases. When it comes to the suppression of free speech, authorities are more likely to pick off the stragglers — the unpopular, unpleasant, and unattractive media personalities who inhabit the fringes of public discourse.

Seppo Lehto is one such character, and now he has just been convicted and sentenced for inciting ethnic hatred. He will spend more than two years in prison for posting his noxious opinions on his blog. In many ways, Finland is leading the way in the repression of free speech. Britain generates more cases, but the Finns have been prosecuting theirs more effectively and imposing harsher punishments."

"That Finland is now in the role of protecting Islam from criticism, is a step that no other state in Europe has taken until now," notes the Tundra Tabloid, "and that, more than anything else, is indeed dangerous as it is worrisome."

It's ominously clear that when 'hate speech' laws are on the books, then free speech protection goes to the dogs.  As Hugh Laurie's former partner-in-comedy Stephen Fry reminds us,

'It's now very common to hear people say, "I'm rather offended by that", as if that gives them certain rights. It's no more than a whine. It has no meaning, it has no purpose, it has no reason to be respected as a phrase. "I'm offended by that." Well, so fucking what?'

NB: Instead of linking to Lehto's odious and repellent racist filth, I'll link readers instead to Prodos's masterful analysis of the issues raised by Lehto's colleague-in-purdah Mikko Ellilä in his article, 'Society Consists of People.'  The link to Prodos's analysis, his own reasons for ejecting Ellila from his Prodos-hosted blog, (and why ejecting him is not a violation of free speech) can be found here:  My comprehensive assessment of Mikko Ellila article, Society Consists of People.


  1. Here is a genuine question.

    There are a number of constraints on free speech. You may not slander somebody, you may not show movies publicly, you may not incite a riot, and you may not put porn on a billboard.

    There is presumably debate about these constraints in some quarters but basically the general view is that these are justified.

    What is it about religious speech that makes constraints on it dangerous in a way that, apparently, these other restrictions do not? I am having trouble seeing the principle that separates them.

    Any pointers to a famous 200 year old essay that I should have read by now but have not would be appreciated.

  2. He who can not speak, who can not rage or can not resist - has no human rights of an individual but that of a trained dog. In essence he is nothing but a mere slave.

  3. matt b.

    I think "sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me" may be 200 years old.

    Slander is lies, different from expressing an opinion.
    Movies are someone else's property, not yours.
    Inciting a riot causes property damage and personal injury, which is different from expressing an opinion.
    Porn on a billboard? Are you sure that is illegal...or is it just poor form?
    Porn is legal, billboards are legal. Hnece porn on a billboard is unlikely to be illegal. Exposing children to porn is, I am sure, illegal, for reasons I'm sure even you can fathom.

  4. Fist: base. You've just managed to produce a list of justifications for what are still restrictions on speech, and I already said its basically agreed these restrictions are justified.

  5. Hi Matt. Sorry, may be my bad: I thought you were making the point in your comment that you see why blaspheming shouldn't be banned/restrained like the other examples you cite.

    Socialists say bad things about me and my kind, implying I oppress workers and treat them like slaves, that I get rich (I wish) my keeping the poor, poor. And that me and my kind rape the environment.
    I counter with sound agruement.

    Perhaps in this New World Order of thought and hate crimes, I shall just call the police in future and have them deal with it.
    I mean, it's not as if I would have to pay the cost: the taxpayer pays again.

  6. Fair enough Fist. FWIW I am probably quite close to the camp that is doubtful about having any constraint on speech including libel and copyright (many great works were made without it). My question really was just a thought experiment, and certainly not a defense of what is happening re: speech. I was lazily hoping PC, who is well-read on this sort of thing, would come back with a reference to a classic piece by Locke or Jefferson for me to read.


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